The company doesn’t use its own framers, trim carpenters or siding installers, he notes, but they monitor the work at the site. “We consider them associates and work together. It works well. We all look out for each other, with the common goal of creating a high-quality finished product.”
Specialized Products Offered
Christensen also helps by providing specialized products. Those products start with below-grade steel, rebar and related items, which were added about 10 years ago to make the stores a one-stop shop— but it also aids the company, he notes. “If you know the foundation guys, you have leads to where work is being done,” he explains. “It pays dividends.
In addition to its truss- and wall-engineering services, it also creates both traditional stairs and circular wooden stairs in multiple sizes, which are used by a number of clients. The units, which the company began offering in 2009, are typically designed for use in a home’s corner and are slid into place after being delivered on a platform truck. “It’s pretty interesting to see them going down the road,” he notes. The concept started with builders asking if they could create the stair units, he explains. “We put our heads together and figured out a way to create them.”
Christensen also offers installation services for new-construction windows, patio doors and storm doors. These services were also requested by builders, at least in circumspect. “We introduced them from necessity because the builders needed our expertise to ensure the installation met the manufacturers’ standards,” he explains. “We were getting calls about malfunctioning products, so we began offering the service to protect ourselves against unwarranted product returns.”
The Early Years
Many of these products and services have been added since Christensen took over the business from his father, David, who inherited it from his own father. Alfred Christensen was working as a bank teller in 1923 when he heard about health problems of a customer, the owner of the Johnson & Cheney Lumber & Coal Co. Christensen partnered with local homebuilder Robert Luehrs to buy the original pre-1900 building and create the LuehrsChristensen Lumber & Coal Co. “Selling coal was the more important part of the business at the time, but they grew it from that base,” he explains.
Alfred bought out his partner in 1943, and coal was dropped a few years later. Tom Christensen started on the ground floor at the age of six, sweeping floors and doing odd jobs to help out. He’s been at it for 40 years now. “I grew to like the business a lot, but it’s much different than it was,” he says. The company now sells only to professional contractors, having phased out its retail side. “We’re very focused on single-family and commercial wood-framed projects.”